Montag, 29. Juni 2009

Foreign living

To live in a foreign country is something I always dreamed about and it came natural to me.

Cuando era joven, en mi casa se oía música griega de Mikis Theodorakis, el melancolico "Klezmer" judio, la grandiosa Mercedes Sosa, se oía música de muchos rincones del mundo.

Los amigos de mi mama vinieron de Dinamarca, de Inglaterra, de Polonia, de Somalia, de Corea, .

En la mesa había comida de todos estos países así que para mí, era normal comer comida coreana como “Tempura” lo que muchos años después iba a redescubrir en restaurantes de moda japonesa, habia ensalada de fideo al estilo coreano, Danish Apple Pie, Polish “Borschtsch”, all mixed with Greek influences and spices, that later on I would read about in fancy magazines.

It was more common for me to eat food, that many people would consider foreign than anything that others would consider typical for my country.

My friends at that time (and I mean Kindergarten, now) were not that divers: They came from Germany, Denmark, Turkey or the United States. When we moved to Frankfurt – myself aged 10 – we lived in a neighbourhood, where 70% of the population would have roots from other countries: Our neighbours came from Yugoslavia, Turkey, Portugal, Spain – just to name a few...

Now, during summer time, windows wide open, there was other music to listen to, other smells in the staircase. At school I had a good friend who often would invite me after school. Her mother was Italian, the father Greek, in her house there would be Italian food and Greek chatter or the other way round. She would always play the music of Eros Ramazotti :) and translate me all the lyrics, that’s why still today I can follow a certain line of Italian conversation. My half-French, half-German friends were nothing exotic at all. They would introduce me to the French 80s music of Indochine, Jeanne Mas and others, music I still listen too, and which gave me a hard feeling of nostalgia when listening to this music on the radio travelling France a couple of months ago.

Though my school was not very multicultural at all all of these experiences : my mother’s friends, their accents, their appearance, the food they cooked for and with us, the friends I made, the music I listened to, made me whom I am today.

I first noticed that, when at one of my first student jobs, most of the workforce weren't native Germans, they had Yugoslav, Greek, Arab, Turkish, Russian backgrounds. I felt right among them. I made friends with some of them and was introduced more thoroughly to Armenian, Turkish – and most of all! – Greek culture. And sometimes I felt they were more at ease with me, too… no questions asked, no weirdness, just relaxed normality and healthy interest.

My nephew is half-Spanish, his father is of extremeño (the Spanish region of Extremadura) heritage - he introduced me to important icons of Catalan culture: Lluis Llach, Serrat, Maria del Mar Bonet – when I told people in Catalonia, they wouldn't or couldn´t believe it: how could – of all Spaniards! – an extremeño initiate a German to Catalan culture…impossible – but to me it was natural. But it wasn't just cantautors of course, the music of Estopa (themselves "hijos de emigrantes extremeños en Catalunya") I knew before coming to Spain…

My love and interest for Spanish and Catalan culture made me move to Spain, after having spent a year in Australia: down under I worked and studied not only with Australians and Austrians, but also with people from China, Singapore and Nepal.

I even passed a brief period living and working in Thailand - again with people of all backgrounds among them Corea, Phillipines, Israel, Myanmar and India.

In Spain I met many people from the Latin American countries, who before I had barely ever met. Life in Barcelona gave me another opportunity to meet and work with people from Spain, England, Mexico, Brazil and Italy. I met people from Mexico, Cuba, Argentina, Uruguay, Ecuador, Venezuela, and Peru – made friends with some of them. And of course, in the end married a Chilean…Ah, and not to mention my dear friends from Switzerland! Very exotic race, too, they are! :)

I can feel at home anywhere - but the point is, after all these years, I can't call home the place where I live. I myself am too internationalized, too multi-cultural, that I can't feel at home in a place where even people from other European cultures, like myself, are constantly being labeled as "exotic". I know it's normal, and very few people have my experience and background - but I am fed up with it. Actually this post was supposed to be the introduction to the actual post on how I feel foreign here. I think this has to wait for a later post :)

Samstag, 27. Juni 2009

Too much pride

Even though the United States might not have won against World Cup Champion Italy, they left them behind in the group ranking - and yesterday they won 2:0 against Spain, the Euro 2008 champion, therefore ending the Spaniards long series of undefated matches. Fair enough for the Spanish team, that 1 year ago - before the Euro Cup - was still considered a loser team by many "at home". Being thwarted by the US Team has left many speechless and ended all dreams to exceed Brazils long-standing record of being the team with the most undefeated matches in series.

And as always the press is quick to deconstruct all confidence commenting maliciously that the times of "Spanish pride" ("soberbia" as in one of the deadly sins) are over. The comments in the forums of the catalan newspapers leave nothing to imagination: Yesterday's defeat of the Spanish team is the second-best thing that happend in 2009 - after Barça winning the triple championship, of course.

And not just that, as always, reviewing the articles concerned on the web, the web forums have come back to the same topic, as any forum on any topic will always in the end come to: Insulting each other on the topic of Catalans vs. Spaniards

Death in the times of Facebook

Michael Jackson is dead. It is weird how the death of a person you never met, can affect you. But then Michael Jackson was part of our lifes, since we were young. For people of my generation he was one of the artists who accompanied us when we started to discover, well everything you start to discover when you are 13: love, friends, music, parties. So he did form part of our lives, like a good friend, who after graduating from High School falls out of sight, and occassionally you will hear some gossip about them and just wonder what the hell has happened to them.

But now we live in times of facebook, and I really think that just as there is a before and after Internet, there is also a before and after Facebook. Now, in real time, we can follow what our friends (also known as close friends, friends, and people I just met once for 5 minutes and later would have forgetten about, if we weren’t friends on Facebook) have to say about Michael Jackson, how they say it and what their favourite songs were. I even found out about his death on Facebook! Because nowadays it’s not Yahoo, Google, or any news page I open first when connecting to Internet – it’s Facebook!

Strange enough

Why strange enough? Having lived abroad for a good part of the last 10 years, it’s not only that I’ve seen, heard and read (and maybe smelled…) some really strange things. After 10 years I also feel more often than not “strange enough” in the places I live – like Bill Bryson, sometimes I feel I’m neither here nor there.

While others stay at home and live their lifes, I (like many others) seem to be travelling all over the world, starting from scratches over and over again. Don’t know if its good or bad, it’s just how it is. Though sometimes I have a feeling of envy – and sometimes I would also like to just settle down and call a place home, or rather be in a place I can call home. Because truth is, you may call a place home, but in the end the place might not even want to be called home – good thing though, that places can’t speak….